As the happy owner of a new furry ball of joy, you will want to start things off on the right foot by teaching your puppy the proper way to play, and when to know that playtime is over. It’s a great idea to start early with this type of training to instill good behavior and impulse control in your pet.
We all know that dogs – and especially puppies – can be wild balls of fur that will push over doors, knock over dog gates, ram into people, or any obstacle in their way! Even though your puppy is small now, in just a few short months they could be big enough to cause some real damage to your belongings or to a child.
The benefits to teaching your puppy proper play time behavior is not just limited to when they are tugging on a rope. Learning proper impulse control is important in almost every situation – from knowing that playtime is over, to keeping them from running out of the door and onto the street anytime they get amped up.
Puppy Psychology – Reading Their Body Language
It’s interesting that quite a few of the behaviors that you don’t want your adult dog doing are many of the ways puppies naturally play – like growling, biting, being overly rough and pouncing. So it is imperative that you work with them to learn how to control these natural instincts.
Do you know how to differentiate when your puppy is being playful and when it is starting to show aggression and anger? A puppy that is in a playful mood often lowers their front paws while raising their rear, in the classic “Come get me!” pose that we are all familiar with.
On the other hand, a puppy that is being aggressive will usually stand quite still and stare, often while growling in a way that will show that he is not playing around.
Proper Pet Socialization Works Wonders
If you feel like your puppy’s behavior towards other canine companions is becoming a problem, consult with your vet first to confirm your suspicions. If your vet agrees with you, then you’ll want to tackle this problem as quickly as possible – proper socialization is crucial to a healthy development for your puppy. All pups can benefit from proper socialization as it teaches them how to act around other puppies and also other humans.
What you should be aiming for when you are socializing is introducing your dog to a wide array of stimuli and differing situations. Be careful and plan out this process though – too much stimulus at once can overwhelm your small pup and create fear and unfounded aggression if not handled properly.
There is a critical period of development for puppies where it’s important not to push your puppy too far or toss them into too many unknown situations. This period is from about eight weeks until 3 months of age – try to provide your puppy with lots of new sights and sounds, while also being careful of not freaking your tiny pup out in the process!
How To Calm Your Puppy Down
So you’ve taken the time to properly socialize your pet but they will still sometimes play too aggressively at times, either just with you or with other pups. Time to nip this behavior in the bud.
The number one thing to do is to stop playing immediately if your pup is being too aggressive with you. If he or she has hurt you with their claws or teeth, yell out something loudly like “Hey!” or “Ouch!” to get their attention and help them realize this behavior is not acceptable.
Another technique is to hold an impromptu training session if things are getting out of hand. Your dog could be running around at full speed, barking and going crazy – but if you take control of the situation, stand up and do something like snap your fingers, you will get their attention. Once you get their attention, follow up with a few commands like sit, shake, or heel to help focus all of that excess energy on a new target.
Try distracting your pup with a toy to play with that will redirect their attention.
Use a harmless spray of water or a loud noise to give your pet a slight shock and interrupt your pup’s bad behavior. Don’t overdo it, the idea here is to curb your puppies bad behavior, not instill fear in your precious pup.
Here are some helpful tips that you can follow when it comes to puppy playtime:
- Activate your pup’s brain and stimulate them mentally with a rubber chew toy like a Kong.
- Play retriever games with your pup like fetch, fetch is a great way to wear out your dog without taking up too much time or being too strenuous.
- Avoid playing on the floor with your puppy. It will over-excite your pup which will make them more likely to gnaw at your, pounce, and do other aggressive behaviors.
- It’s a good idea to incorporate basic obedience training into playtime with your dog to help train their focus. Have him or her sit and stay as part of your playtime routine. Use treats to reward proper behavior, and only give them treats when they follow your commands.
Make it a habit to also look for opportunities where you can teach your dog to learn how to control themselves and calm their wild behavior. Examples of some of these opportunities are
- When you get home after you’ve been absent for awhile (such as coming home from work), don’t give your dog attention until they have all of their paws on the ground.
- Give your dog the “sit” command before meal time
- Ask your dog to sit and wait before you let them out of their crate
- Giving your dog the sit command before and after they get out of the car
- Start a “settle” command that your dog will quickly learn!
The Rewards of Impulse Control Training
Teaching your dog to control their impulses and restrain their behavior may be one of the most important lessons you can teach your pup! The way that we naturally teach our dog’s self control, by punishing them when they are too excited – actually leads to confusion and can send the wrong signal to the dog.
They won’t really understand why they are being punished and can cause lots of chaos, making it even harder for your dog to settle down! The key is to withhold something your dog wants, like food or a toy, until they can settle themselves down and become calm. Don’t ever give up on this endeavor! Patience is the key to success when it comes to this type of training.
Get started training your puppy as early as possible and you will be amazed at the dog they can become. Check out our review of Doggy Dan’s dog training system for one of my personal favorite puppy and dog training courses. It is filled with tons of training videos and articles, plus a discussion forum where you can ask dog professionals and even Doggy Dan himself questions.